CNN and Money Magazine has put together a list of the top 100 places to start a business and raise a family. As with many of such lists, Charlottesville placed in the top twenty. In addition, it is important to note the list considered the entire metropolitan statistical area (MSA) so we’re all Number 18.
As a general rule such lists do two things: create controversy and sell magazines. This list has achieved the first of these goals (based on a visit to the magazine’s blog) and I anticipate in time it will achieve the second goal.
Of interest to me is that Charlottesville is not the only Virginia city on the top 100 and in fact C-ville is not the highest ranking Virginia city. The Virginia cities in the top 100 include Virginia Beach (14), Charlottesville (18), Leesburg (31), and Blacksburg (43).
It is not surprising to find that Bert Sperling (who named C-ville the best place to live a couple of years ago) was a significant part of the selection criteria. According to the website the list was developed by ranking the “296 Census-designated metro areas by business friendliness (Launching Score, % New Businesses) and lifestyle offerings (Living Score). Then, through reporting, we picked the town within each of the top 100 metro areas that best blends business and pleasure.”
It is relatively clear that the study group would be challenged to determine the “business friendliness” of our MSA. Most of the businesspeople I speak with have variant views of the different localities included in the study. Many cite the higher level of zoning complexity and detailed requirements in Charlottesville and Albemarle and the lack of significant infrastructure in the outlying counties.
I am sure the level of entertainment and social activities moved Charlottesville up the list. With the opening of The Paramount and The John Paul Jones Arena coupled with the vibrant community theaters and the just concluded Festival of the Book our glass does runneth over with opportunities from Professional Bull Riding to deep academic discussions of Aging in Place (two choices over the past couple of days).
Philosophically it is amazing the very existence of this list (and others like it) awakens a competitve spirit in the region. If we are not number 1, why not? Aren’t we the greatest?
I think it is important to look at such lists with a long lens and consider the reasons we, for the most part, choose to live here. Then using the list see if there are characteristics from the MSAs above us we should or should not choose to emulate.
While I did not join the chorus bemoaning Charlottesville’s selection as the best place to live a few years ago, I am happy to be #18.